Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told Karl Rove to keep his new super PAC, which some conservatives believe was created to wage war on them, out of Iowa's Republican primaries.
"I basically told Karl Rove that what he was doing is counter-productive and he needs to stay out of it," Branstad told the Associated Press last Friday. "If some outside group that has no connection to Iowa attacks somebody from Iowa, that is not smart."
After Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, announced he would be retiring from the Senate in January, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) indicated he may be interested in pursuing the Senate seat, which has been held by a Democrat for 30 years, in 2014.
Rove's group promptly decided to smear King a week later, indicating he would be a Republican against whom the group would try to obliterate with negative ads in a potential Iowa GOP Senate primary.
After Rove leaked the details of his super PAC to the New York Times, American Crossroads President Steven Law blistered King in the same publication, telling the Times the group was "concerned about Steve King's Todd Akin problem" and that "all of the things he's said are going to be hung around his neck." These comments enraged King because they falsely implied King endorsed Akin's views and comments about "legitimate rape," which cost Akin Missouri's Senate race in 2012.
"Nobody can bully me out of running," King declared nearly a week ago, after learning of the comments.
And Branstad agrees, noting it would be a "mistake" if Rove's super PAC went into Iowa and started running negative attacks to tear down King in favor of another candidate backed by the establishment Republican group.
Branstad's comments are significant not only because he is the governor of the state that kicks off the presidential nomination process with its first-in-the-nation caucuses, but also because Branstad is a politician who has traditionally had good ties to the Republican establishment. Many outside groups, like Rove's super PAC, are intending to use the 2014 elections as a test run for 2016.
Branstad was not alone in criticizing Rove's intentions. Even a longtime Rove friend and former Iowa Republican Party chairman, Richard Schwarm, told the Associated Press he felt Rove's super PAC was a mistake.
"I think that was a total backfire on Rove's part," the member of the Iowa Republican political establishment said.